March 4, 2020
I’ve never had a Cocktail Talk from Dan J. Marlowe before – welcome to the site, Mr. Marlowe! A fairly well-known writer of mid-century hardboiled crime fiction (and other things, here and there), Mr. Marlowe had two sort-of series, one with a guy named Drake (I’ve never read any of these) and one with a guy named Johnny Killain – The Fatal Frails stars the latter, and this is my first with him – and then a bunch of books without an on-going lead. My favorite book of his falls in the latter group, though The Fatal Frails with Mr. Killain (a sort-of rough-and-tumble type who is both quite a brawler and quite a lady magnet) was pretty fun, so maybe I’ll try another. The fun thing about Mr. Marlowe outside the books is that he actually hung out with a bank robber, and a murderer, and co-wrote some stories with the former, so lived the life a bit. And, he wrote the below Cocktail Talk, which may be the only French Seventy-five mention I’ve seen in a pulp – with a bonus, throwing itself into one side of a discussion mostly won by the other side these days, meaning Cognac vs. gin in said drink. Nice that it’s harder to say the drink is “much-neglected” these days, too!
His glance that had difficulty in focusing moved over to Johnny speculatively. “Although I don’t know how you knew. I was – disturbed, last evening. Upset, if you like. I am given to moods. I have – treatment for them. Early in the evening I repaired to a little place I know where the bartender is an artist in the preparation of that much-neglected drink, the French Seventy-five.” He smiled at Johnny, not quite vacuously despite the clouded eyes. “You’re familiar with the drink? Champagne over a Cognac base? Terrific morale builder. I had – several, after which I decided a spot of visiting was in order.”
–Dan J. Marlowe, The Fatal Frails
January 25, 2019
January isn’t called “the cold and flu” season as much as year’s end, but darnit, it’s still a month where you need your vitamins and need to have an eye (at least one) on your health. And what’s healthier than raspberries? Well nothing. Nothing but raspberries and vinegar, that is! Now that’s a healthy duo, especially when you combine it with soda water and Cognac (or brandy, in a pinch, another healthy item). Heck, that combo is so healthy that it was a top tipple of Count Louis Philippe Joseph de Roffignac, ex-French citizen and beloved Mayor of New Orleans from 1820 to 1828. If you can’t trust him (from whatever afterworld bar he may be at) on healthiness, then who can you trust? (Oh, you’ll need to make the raspberry-vinegar syrup to get full health benefits and to make this drink – see A Note, below – but you can do that. I have faith in you!)
2 ounces Cognac
1/2 ounce raspberry-vinegar syrup (which may once have been called Red Hembarig and various other names)
Chilled club soda
1. Fill a highball glass up with ice cubes. Add the cognac and the syrup. Stir once.
2. Top the glass off with club soda. Stir once again.
A Note: To make your syrup in a fairly-orderly and quick fashion, muddle two cups raspberries a bit in a bowl, then add a cup of apple cider vinegar, and stir briefly. Let sit overnight (I suggest putting a napkin or such on top). Then add it plus three cups sugar and 3/4 cup water to a saucepan. Heat to a simmer, let simmer for around 10 minutes, then take off the heat and let it cool completely in the pan. Strain through a fine strainer and then cheesecloth if you’re really worried about getting small bits of things in your teeth. Keep in the fridge.
December 28, 2018
Hey, the year of 2018 is coming to a close (you may have known this, and if not, well, congrats on your ability to disconnect from world events), which means another year – 2019, unless I’m disconnected – is about to start. As you go into the new year, with a bubbly drink I’m hoping, please go into it with a spirit of adventure, as you push yourself into thinking about the world anew (which is what you do every year, right? Right!) and all that. With that, I suggest you go with this here drink for your NYE bubbler, as it’s named for an adventurer (you may have known this, too, unless you’ve forgotten your high school history), a fellow who was not only the the first governor of Puerto Rico but one of the first Euro-venturers to meet Florida and, of course, tried in vain to find the fountain of youth. Interesting, when you think about having this on a day that counteracts the very idea of being able to go back in time, instead of forward. But that thought may be too deep! Just have this drink and have some fun why dontcha? Time is short, after all.
The Ponce de León, from Dark Spirits
1 ounce Cognac
1/2 ounce white rum
1/2 ounce Cointreau
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
Chilled brut Champagne or sparkling wine
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the Cognac, rum, Cointreau, and grapefruit juice. Shake well.
2. Strain through a fine strainer into saucer-style Champagne glass or cocktail or coupe glass. Fill the glass not quite to the top with the Champagne.
April 20, 2018
Ah, springtime. It’s when the flowers are blooming, everything is starting to wake up (in a way), the heavy coats are dropped to the ground to be replaced by lighter coats, or hoodies, even, and the drinks are flowing like the pollen which, really, I’d rather avoid if possible. It’s also the season (why not?) for remembering past loves, from years gone by, and picturing those idyllic springtime moments with said past loves, when you walked through fields of flowers, hand-in-hand, never knowing that one would someday be forgotten. Here, of course, the past love I’ve talking about is this delicious drink, which if I remember right once won me a mixing glass in some contest or other. Happily, unlike some past love, this one is easy – and smart – to rekindle. It is springtime, after all.
The Flowering Grape
2 ounces Pierre Ferrand Cognac
1 ounce St-Germain elderflower liqueur
1/4 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 ounce raspberry vinegar syrup (I detail how to make raspberry vinegar syrup here)
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add everything. Shake well.
2. Strain through a fine strainer into a cocktail glass. Laugh heartily.
January 12, 2018
Earlier in this wonderful month (just a week ago! If you’ve forgotten), I featured a drink here on the Spiked Punch, In The Treetops with Delamain L’Aigle XO Cognac. If you missed it, go check it out, or be sad – you don’t want to be sad, right? There, I talked about Cognac-as-cocktail-ingredient, and then, when thinking it over, decided I should back up the talk with a few more cocktails boasting Cognac as a base, and decided also to go next with one of the definitive Cognac cocktails, the classic Sidecar. Created overseas during Prohibition, the Sidecar was either first crafted at a bar in Paris or by an army colonel who drove around with a sidecar often. Or someone else entirely!
There are two Sidecar schools, but I lean towards the one that leans heavier on the Cognac and is less sweet. This road works even better when you’re able to use Hine Bonneuil 2005 Grande Champagne Cognac (a bottle of which I received in the mail recently, bless my lucky stars). Made from Ugni Blanc grapes only grown on the Hine vineyards, this limited-edition (track it down, if you can) Cognac has a great fresh grape, fig, orange, and herb nose, with more fig, and then apple, spice, honey and oak on the tongue, with an echo of pineapple and citrus. Scrummy stuff.
And, a perfect Cognac for the Sidecar, able to stand up to the lemon and mingle mightily with the requisite orange liqueur – here, I used a new one, made in my own Seattle, by Bernie Garcia, the owner of Moctezuma’s restaurant (it actually launches next week, but I figure you can wait a few days). It’s called Grandeza, and it uses bitter orange peels, agave nectar, and a bit of vanilla in a memorable manner. All together, this trio combines into a cocktail that you won’t forget, one that begins with bright citrus and spice, buoyed by fruit, herbal, and more. Oh, I know that many (maybe even myself in the past), have said that using a really fine Cognac like Hine Bonneuil 2005, in cocktails, even classics like the Sidecar, is foolish. However! I think once in a while, high-rolling your cocktails at home to lift them into legendary status is a good idea. You only live once, after all.
2 ounces Hine Bonneuil 2005 Grande Champagne Cognac
1/2 ounce Grandeza orange liqueur
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full of cracked ice. Add everything. Shake gently.
2. Strain through a fine strainer into a cocktail glass. Don’t ride a motorcycle while drinking, but do sit in a sidecar attached to a parked motorcycle, if you want.
January 5, 2018
It’s a smidge odd to say about one of the world’s revered sippers, but Cognac (especially in the states, I suppose) gets a little short shrift. Especially when it comes to cocktails. But consider this, friends – Cognac was a key player in the early days of cocktailing, and used as the base spirit in many classic drinks (the Sazerac, for one, but also a bunch of others), including ones that shifted for one reason or another to a different base. Both the shifts and the lack of Cognac-ing in modern cocktails is a shame, because the layers of flavors that unfold in good Cognacs when paired with the right pals make memorable drinks.
Let’s take this one, In The Treetops, for example! I was lucky enough (don’t curse me for it, especially not this early in the year) to receive a bottle of L’Aigle de Delamain XO Grande Champagne Cognac recently. The Eagle (L’Aigle equals The Eagle) is a delicious Cognac, aged in Limousin oak casks near the Charente River, and one that can be – and maybe should be! – savored solo, thanks to its bold-yet-graceful and complex-yet-approachable nature. It delivers floral and citrus essences on the nose, with a few nutty notes, too, and even more lush orange and fruit with a little chocolate and nuttiness in the unfolding flavor. It’s really as good as you’d expect from Delamain, who, if you don’t know, have been making renowned Cognacs since, oh, the 1600s. Or thereabouts!
When deciding to mix a cocktail with a Cognac this swell, I think keeping it fairly simple, letting the Cognac shine, adding only a few others players, is the way to go. I first thought I’d go with a drink from another lesser-known classic, Crosby Gaige’s Cocktail Guide and Ladies Companion (from the early 1940s), a drink called Rock a Bye Baby. And, admittedly, which you might guess from the title of this cocktail (if you know your nursery rhymes), I didn’t stray far from the original. I kept the same ingredients, Cognac (well, Crosby used brandy), sweet vermouth (I used Martini Gran Lusso Italian vermouth, 150th anniversary edition, made from Barbera and oak-aged Moscato, and with lovely fruit tones and a smidge of sweetness), and Bénédictine. But Crosby (who will forgive me I’m sure), had equal parts Cognac and sweet vermouth, and less Bénédictine. I wanted to let Delamain’s L’Aigle fly higher, so boosted the Cognac, drifted down the sweet vermouth, and upper the Bénédictine some to herbal-ize the edges more. The end result is a layered, sophisticated-in-the-best-way, cocktail, one that is a special treat, sure, but don’t you deserve to be treated? I think you do.
In The Treetops
2 ounces L’Aigle de Delamain XO Grande Champagne Cognac
1 ounce Martini & Rossi Gran Lusso Italian vermouth
1/2 ounce Bénédictine
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add everything. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Enjoy life’s momentary luxuries.
December 4, 2015
I first found this warmer-upper in Mary Lou and Robert J. Heiss’s book Hot Drinks (Ten Speed Press, 2007), which you should invest in if you ever like to make a drink during the cold days – and why wouldn’t you? When we’re in the winter months (which we are in WA, for sure. If you’re in an island clime right now, well, you still might want a warm drink. Just for a change), a good hot drink is essential. Essential! If you don’t believe me, make the below the next time you feel that ol’ chill in your bones, and you’ll believe me double quick.
4 ounces pomegranate juice
2 ounces Cognac
1/2 ounce Chambord
Lemon slice, for garnish
1. Add the pomegranate juice to a small saucepan and, over medium heat, let the juice come to a simmer, but not a boil. Add the Cognac and Chambord, and lower the heat to medium-low. Heat, stirring once or twice, for 2 minutes, never letting it come to a boil.
2. Pour the mix into a glass or mug that can handle the heat. Garnish with the lemon slice.
October 13, 2015
The most famous novel by William P. McGivern (I think at least), and a book made into a sweet 1953 noir movie gem with all kinds of hardasses, The Big Heat is a classic revenge-and-corruption novel set in Philly and featuring a seriously tough cop-then-not-cop. It’s a good one. Good enough that I recently read it twice, and came across a nice roll of paragraphs that feature both Cognac and a swell Scotch line.
“I’m having a poker game tonight,” Stone told him, smoothing down his thinning hair. “We got plenty to drink?”
“Yes, there’s plenty.”
“Well, see there’s French Cognac. Judge McGraw is coming and he won’t drinks nothing else. You got money?”
Alex said no, smiling nervously.
“What’ll it be?” Larry said.
“Scotch and plain water. Make it a double. I guess I need a lift.”
–William P. McGivern, The Big Heat